Gates: SEALs who killed bin Laden concerned for their safety
May 12th, 2011
09:59 PM ET

Gates: SEALs who killed bin Laden concerned for their safety

The Department of Defense is looking into ways to "pump up the security" for the team of Navy SEALs who helped kill Osama bin Laden after the commandos expressed concern for their safety and the safety of their families, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Gates made the comment in response to a question at a town hall meeting at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A Marine asked what measures were being taken to protect "the identities and the lives" of the SEALs involved in the takedown of bin Laden in Pakistan a week ago, as well as other troops deployed in the region, from the threat of retaliation.

"We are very concerned about the security of our families - of your families and our troops, and also these elite units that are engaged in things like that. And without getting into any details ... I would tell you that when I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates told the audience.

"Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day."

Gates' comments offered the first insight into the mindset of the team members since they carried out the risky operation.

SEALs, short for Sea, Air and Land teams, are known as "quiet professionals." They keep a low profile because of the classified nature of their tactical operations.

The team, known as SEAL Team 6, is widely believed to have returned to American soil. But the unit is covered with such a degree of secrecy that the military won't confirm its presence.

The Marine's question underscored sentiment among military and intelligence communities that identification of the team signified an unprecedented breach of confidentiality.

Gates acknowledged the threat of retaliation against Team 6 and troops deployed in the region.

"There is an awareness that the threat of retaliation is increased because of the attacks - because of the action against bin Laden," he said. "The one thing I would tell you, though, is that I think there has been a consistent and effective effort to protect the identities of those who participated in the raid, and I think that has to continue."

A Pentagon spokesman later cautioned against interpreting Gates' response "as a criticism of any particular person or office."

"He was indeed voicing his concern about the breakdown in operational security after the killing of Bin Laden," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Geoff Morrell said. "Anonymous sources revealing secret information about the tactics, training, and equipment of covert forces put at risk our ability to successfully mount similar missions in the future."

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (924 Responses)
  1. Joey

    Every detail of this aspect of the bin Laden operation should have been arranged prior to the killing.
    The tightest secrecy must be maintained regarding these brave ane highly skilled troops.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JN

      It's a good thing Dick Cheney isn't stil in office. He has a record of outing top-secret government workers.

      May 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. starbeast

    The lack of intelligence by our leaders and their OPEN mouthed assistants in revealing anything for the sake of political gain can not be believed! Our enemies could not have better spies. Every lackey that wanted to prove that he/she was an "insider" revealed more than the next and our leaders could not resist quiet boasting to them. Again, politicans will through ignorance and stupidity, get true heroes (and their families) killed for the sake of a headline and of course blame someone else. But give equal credit to the press for their relentless hounding of every possible source and fanning the egos of those limited in common sense. Our country and military deserves better than this circus!

    May 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • planethou

      Well said!

      May 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • watchbobos

      I think the opposite, in general, and thank God we have politicians because average people are infinitely more stupid than any particular group, including politicians.

      May 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Well, Obama did promise increased transparency. One campaign promise kept!

      May 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. B. A.

    What did they think was going to happen when all the blabber mouthed press, in an effort to one-up each other, leaked enough info to narrow the search down to the fvcking team # and where they are based. I cannot believe I am putting my safety in the hands of such morons, i.e. the press and the people that give the press information. Stupid, stupid, stupid. No one needed to know the team #, how many went on the mission, the leader of the mission or that they're based out of Virginia. If I was the governor of Virginia, I would sue the information distributors for reckless endangerment. Aaarrrggghhhhh. I need a drink.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilbit1153

      Perhaps you should put a cork in it yourself for revealing information!! It is bad enough that we have the politicians and the press spilling our secrets and endangering our men but do you have to add to it?? If you were truly military then you would know exactly what you should not have said.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      paul,
      Shutting the barn door long after the horses have run will not help anything.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat

      You need more than a drink. You need a lesson in keeping your own mouth shut. Information can come from a lot of different sources and this is one of them. Your loose lips are just as guilty as those you're blaming.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      pat, you may as well yell it from the roof tops now. The information has long been out and available around the world. This silly little comments section will make zero difference.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • YogerTheOgre

      I totally agree with you B.A. I thought it was extremely reckless of the media to report such revealingly detailed information about who, what, where, when, and how. We all, media included, have a responsibility to protect our service men and women from spiteful rambling about such an important mission, especially for the sake of ratings. Thanks to the thoughtless media and other big-mouths that revealed more than necessary information about the service men and women involved in the mission, the safety of our service men and women is now in question. I even saw a new clip that had reporters outside the base trying to get in… Nobody needs to know who these men were, or where they are based; that’s the whole point of secret… The media needs to choose between desired ratings and morality.

      May 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey

    We should not anything about "Team 6."
    There was no need to say, "Navy Seals."
    The only thing we needed to know was "dead."

    May 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • hkte

      I absolutely agree, Joey. I think the news media/reporters are more obsessed with OBL than the rest of us. Someone needs to prohibit them from releasing any more sensitive information. Those who put their lives on the line need to be protected as much as possible.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jobu

    This strikes me as nonsense. would the Pentagon NOT have thought this out beforehand?

    May 12, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      The Pentagon has years of experience and RULES on how to react in a situation likethis. It was the idiots who work with obama and obama himseslf who do not care. They just do and say what they want for political reasons and to make their team look good. What they have done to the future of these brave mane and their families future in terrible. Why aren't heads rolling in obama's office?

      May 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      Jobu
      You can't be real!! Think back at where all the operational sound bites came from and where they were being directed from....the WH duh. Who made the Victory Lap to Ground Zero (why?) and the fort where these troops were from (again WHY?)....duh!! All the people in the WH are rake amatures and idiots.... POLITICS DUH!!

      May 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      @Ra: If everyone in the WH right now is a "rake amateur", how did they manage to keep the operation a complete secret until the Sunday Night address was announced? I suspect the sources for a lot of these leaks is on the Congressional side, since every single detail came out *after* the Gang of Eight got their phone calls.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ra

      @J Why, because Gates would have stopped the operational....... just listen to Gates, he is no lackee.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • jana lalewicz

      @ those bashing Obama for 'leaks': ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We bash him for NOT releasing the photos & I don't know about anyone else but I've heard Obama say the very LEAST about Team 6's mission. Now everyone wants to complain he's not being transparent enough then say he's reavealing too much. What the hell DO some of you want?? Trying to be objective but it certainly seems he's damned if he does & damned if he doesn't with some folks.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. paul

    Can't believe JOE BIDEN'S name wasn't mentioned in here once.... Obama's 2nd term is dependent on him ridding his admin of this guy; he has no clue.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • jana lalewicz

      Ugh; Amen. What DOES that guy do anyway?

      May 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eddie2010

    Actions have consequences.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. J

    @Jobu: The Pentagon apparently DID think this out beforehand, but that didn't stop civilian officials' aides from blabbing to the media. I mean, look at how the story itself broke... not from anyone involved or even in the government, but from *Donald Rumsfeld's* chief of staff. Yes, the same Donald Rumsfeld that hasn't held an official position since he resigned under duress in 2006.

    There's not a lot you can do about it. Given the past track records of every administration since the 1980s, I'm mainly surprised that as much has stayed secret as it has. I thought for sure some Congressional aide to a low-ranking Armed Services committee member would have already leaked a cell phone camera shot of the body onto Twitpic...

    May 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      J's right. Pentagon reports to Congress; always will. To blame them is like blaming an associate at Burger King for the prices at the store.....

      May 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. emperorwithnoclothes

    Are you somehow insinuating Obama leaked these details like saying which SEAL team it was and how the operation was conducted and then went on a nationwide tour just so he could score points at home and get himself re-elected?
    Heresy I say! Heresy! Question not the great Obama! For he can do no wrong. Unpatriotic! Shame on you shame.

    Everyone knows its Bush's fault!!
    Obama inherited this mess, he didn't create it!

    Yes, they should have taken some advice from the SEALs...the quiet professionals, who just do their job and do not boast. It should have been anounced he was killed..but not how or why...or who.

    Period. That's it.

    No...instead we get leaked details, bogus stories, and etc etc. I'm sorry, Obama *makes mistakes*. If you stopped kissing his ass long enough to realize this...

    He's just a human being who makes very human mistakes and errors in judgements...the way the GOP demonizes him and the DNC treats him like a diety makes it impossible to have any sort of normal discussion and hides any mistakes he makes beneath a wall of propaganda from both sides.

    Yes, CNN *worships* the ground Obama walks on and FOX spits on it. Seek to legitimately question him? RACIST!!!!!! Heretic!!! Repug Neo Con Christian something something....

    I guess this is the 'Hope and Change' promised in his election campaign, the one utilizing religious themes? You know...he's continued every single BUSh policy out there...BUSH...the 'devil' to you CNN folks?

    "mean spirited' cuts to the budget! I did my time in the Armed Forces and all I can say the way this country is going...its not worth anyone's life to defend it anymore.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparky

      so move

      May 13, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • ken

      president obama, is this you?

      May 13, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dobro

      "Period. That's it." Keep it that way.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. hkte

    I watch CNN for breaking news, but I personally think too much information is being given regarding OBL. We got him and I think thats all that needs to be reported.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    Maybe it wasn't seal team 6, maybe it was professor plumb, in the library, with a candle stick!

    May 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • UtahIndie

      Quick. Twitter that! Let's get these dastardly devils off on the right trail.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ra

    Jobu and the other coolaid drinkers: Listen to the recent remarks that Gates made to the troops, about the agreement of keeping operational tactics secret made in the WH Situation Room with obama and his amatures lackees....it says sooooo much about obama and his political hacks................POLITICS

    May 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Michael Bay

    I demand copyright infringement royalties to be paid to me immediately! The Obama administration stole the idea of dumping Bin Laden out to sea from my first Transformers movie! It's clearly identical to the Navy dumping Megaton into the ocean at the end of the movie! The government has used up all available lies and is now using movies to fabricate propaganda! Outrageous!

    May 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Silver

    Bla, bla, etc... JSTFU.

    May 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sharon

    Would we rather go back to the secrecy and control freaks of the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon era?

    May 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • markinFL

      There is a time and place for secrecy. This is clearly one of them. There was NO need to identify specifically what group with the US gov. was responsible since it makes no difference except to those that may try to retaliate. Innocent families lives are at stake.

      May 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
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